A preliminary inquiry by the Commissioner of Railway Safety (CRS), probing the incident in which 16 migrant workers were run over by an empty goods train near Aurangabad on May 8, has pointed out that the negligence of the workers who slept on the rail tracks led to the accident.
Also, while observing that had Section 144 (prohibiting assembly of five or more people) of the CRPC been enforced along the tracks, the workers would not have walked on the tracks, the report said that “there is a remote chance that any railway staff could have averted the accident”.
However, the report maintained that the incident could have been avoided had the migrants followed guidelines and not started travelling from their factories to their hometowns without the approval of the district administration, in violation of Section 144.
On May 8 at 5.17 am, a group of 20 migrant workers — on their way to their hometowns in Madhya Pradesh — had fallen asleep on the rail tracks between Badnapur and Karmad stations near Aurangabad after covering 39 km on foot from their factories in Jalna. A goods train had run over 16 of the 20 people, killing them on the spot, while one lying close to the tracks sustained minor injuries. Three others who were 200 meters away from the tracks were unhurt. Following the incident, while a probe by the CRS was initated, a magisterial inquiry was carried out by the Aurangabad administration.
According to sources in the Railways, the report – submitted to railway authorities on May 28 – has observed that measures were not taken to implement of Section 144 and prevent movement of people on the tracks.
“Had Section 144 been ensured around the railway tracks, these workers would not have walked alone on tracks. It can be concluded that there is a remote chance that any railway staff could have averted the accident. With lockdown imposed across Maharashtra, Jalna was declared an orange district while Aurangabad a red district and Section 144 prohibited movement in groups,” the report stated.
It ruled out any lapse on the part of the loco pilot in bringing the train to a halt in time after spotting the workers on the tracks. The train was moving at a speed of about 70 kmph after crossing Badnapur around 5 am.
The report also ruled out any lapse on the part of rail staff – from station masters at Badnapur and Karmad stations to the gatemen at the level crossings – in failing to spot the workers walking on the tracks in the dark. It said that while the loco pilot reported spotting some kind of obstruction that slowed down the train and applied emergency brakes after realising that they were people, he couldn’t bring the train to a halt before hitting them.
The CRS for Secundrabad, Ram Kripal, who conducted the probe, said: “A preliminary inquiry looking into the cause of the accident has been concluded and the report has been submitted… a final report to ascertain who had failed is being prepared.”
Sources in South Central Railway (SCR) said they were awaiting a report of the parallel probe being conducted by the Aurangabad district administration before drafting the final report. “The workers had trespassed on the tracks and violated Section 144 as well,” a senior SCR official said.
The district administration is also probing the role of the labour contractors and factory owners in failing to inform the Jalna administration about the movement of their workers.
“The point where these workers crossed from the roads on to the tracks is closer to Karmad station… However, there is inconsistency on the exact point to ascertain if there was a lapse on the part of the rural police in failing to spot the workers while they crossed from Jalna into Aurangabad,” said an official from Aurangabad administration.
Officials also questioned the role of the patrolling staff assigned to inspect the tracks two hours prior to the arrival of a train. “Did these railway staffers spot the migrants on the tracks before giving the incoming train clearance to cross the section?” an official said.
Aurangabad Collector Uday Chaudhari, who is conducting the inquiry, meanwhile, said: “The probe has been completed and a report sent to the National Human Right Commission and other relevant authorities. We are awaiting further guidelines.”